We pulled in to Warderick Wells, naively thinking it was first-come first-served, but we were lucky to get a mooring anyway. After a gentle reprimand, we learned to read the fine print in our Explorer Chart kit more carefully and were ready the next morning for the 9am mooring request broadcast on Channel 9!
Warderick Wells is a gorgeous anchorage, a long ribbon of blue water doubling back and forth between white sand banks that uncover at low tide.
The downside of the anchorage (and of the Bahamas in general) is the power of the tidal currents that race through these channels.
Don and I jumped in and struck out across the channel towards just one of the pretty white beaches. Midway across there was a gorgeous reef below us. But there was no pausing to gawk, the current trying to sweep us away. WE were strong enough swimmers to handle it, but it wasn't relaxing. Tom and Bette came to the beach by dinghy and enjoyed simply frolicking in its clear, much-stiller water.
The next day we dinghied over to the "Ranger's Gardens", a recommended snorkeling spot in about the center of the above photo. It wasn't very deep, and the coral wasn't extensive -- a shallow reef of mostly soft coral clumps with several full-fledged coral heads and patch reefs.
But it was packed with critters thumbing their noses at snorkelers, clearly knowing they were protected there in the park. There were lobsters strolling around on the bottom, and others playing jungle-gym on the coral heads. There was also a wide assortment of bright tropical fish of all sizes, and the water was bright and clear in the midday sun.
I was armed with my new Nikon water-proof camera (purchased to be able to keep up with Kai on our camping trips) and I had fun trying to capture photos of fish I used to take for granted.
That night we went out around to the Emerald Rock Anchorage (free), a trip that reminded us that in the Bahamas it is no given thing that you can go easily from here to there.
Don and I snorkeled Emerald Rock which was a hefty swim from the boat, and were grateful for the workout, though the reward was a bit underwhelming coral and fish wise, but for a nice little clump on the north side.
But the highlight of this anchorage was sitting out on the tramps for cocktails in the cool evening air feeling like we had the world to ourselves.
Bette & Tom
From Emerald Rock the next morning, we made our first trip on the "inside" of the Exuma chain through the narrow highway of deep-enough water between the west faces of the cays and the Exuma Bank. The wind was piping from the SE, so to go outside would have meant a hard motor-slog into both wind and seas. Inside we just had wind, and tricky navigating! We had almost a hundred miles to make to get back to Georgetown by the end of the following day, and suddenly our distance away loomed large.
Even so, I persuaded Tom to break it up with a stop at Cambridge Island, the southernmost of the Exuma Park Islands. We are glad we did, though coming in involved a very butt-puckering wending of our way in through a few very shallow spots!
It was hard to decide if this anchorage in the park was or wasn't even more gorgeous than Warderick Wells.
We launched the dinghy and went in for a drift dive starting alongside a sand bank and riding the current fast over a nice reef and then alongside two little motu each with its own perfect little reef communities. We were enchanted. And these spot weren't even on the chartlets of recommended spots. So we vowed we would come back here, too.
Slam, bam, thank you, Tom. Dinghy up and we're again on our way south. We motored all the rest of the day, pulled into Black Point for an overnight rest, braved the Dotham Cut's tide race the next morning and motored some 65 miles back to Georgetown and Quantum Leap's mooring at the St. Francis Resort.
All this in the first two weeks! Lots of boatwork, lots of new places, daily yoga and awesome meals. Life is good. Don and I couldn't fathom why we ever gave it up.